ıÜüWorking With Drug Addicts

There are a myriad of attitudes concerning drug addiction, and drug addicts. (From here on we will refer to persons addicted to drugs and/or alcohol as one group: drug addicts.) Unfortunately, there are still those who believe this condition to be the result of poor judgement, or perhaps a flawed character. The consensus among modern health care professionals, including the American Medical Association (AMA), is that drug addiction is a disease. Theories concerning its origins embody the classic "nature vs. nurture" arguments: Does one become an addict because of genetics, environment and upbringing, or a combination thereof? It may be safely concluded that the origins of drug addiction are many, and complex.

Cultivating an awareness of this issue begins with the realization that drug addicts are not necessarily bad people, but rather victims of their illness. Some people have what is known as an addictive personality - a predisposition to become dependent on a certain lifestyle, or substance. Examples are compulsive eaters or gamblers, those who accumulate excessive debt, and drug addicts, who become addicted to substances. For the drug addict, a simple "just say no" is insufficient. The nature of their illness is such that they have not naturally developed the kind of rational self-control that allows most people to remain free of addiction. Addicts become mired in their habit without realizing that a problem is developing, and they practice denial in order to maintain their increasingly fragile world.


In the health care industry, it\'s believed that in order for rehabilitation to succeed, an addict must sincerely want to be helped. There is a natural tendency, in observing a person\'s debilitating addiction, to try to help the addict with a heart-to-heart talk, to try to "bring them to their senses." As well-intentioned as this may be, most addicts feel they don\'t want help, instead believing they have no problem, or that those outside their situation don\'t understand. It\'s also possible for a talk of this nature to backfire, leaving the addict alienated and angry with his or her friends. It may be more helpful to have a recovering (rehabilitated) addict talk to the addict, someone who does understand, someone who has been there and made it back. If you don\'t know such a person, a call to a local chapter of either AA or NA may prove helpful, as these groups are in touch with successfully rehabilitated addicts who are willing to help with these situations. Frequently however, merely talking to an addict won\'t inspire any significant change, regardless of who\'s doing the talking. In order for many addicts to abandon their denial, and want to renounce drugs, they must first hit bottom.

"Hitting bottom" is fairly self explanatory: the person\'s life must reach a profound level of unhappiness, the previously unlimited reservoir of denial finally gone dry. A person may hit bottom due to a combination of undeniable circumstances, such as failing health, divorce, or arrest for drunken driving or drugs. The fact that these events are referred to as "sobering" is no coincidence. If an addict/musician you know does hit bottom, and asks for help getting straight, it behooves you to give that addict all the help and support you can. It may be difficult to completely forgive and forget all the transgressions that person may have committed as a result of his or her addiction, but remember: they were incapacitated by a very serious illness. Their previously irrational behavior was most likely irrelevant to their true personality, the one finally asking for, and deserving of your help.

Not every drug addict is completely incapacitated by their addiction. In fact, the greatest numbers of addicts in society today are called "functional" drug addicts. They can regulate when they ingest their substance(s) of choice, which enables them to function in an apparently normal fashion. The functional addict can hold a job, make payments on a car or house, even maintain a family life. Amazingly, it\'s even possible for the addict to keep his or her addiction a secret from a spouse! If you are in a band with such a person, you will notice their regular abuse of the substance, their devotion to it, and a tendency to promote its usage. Functional alcoholics are